Big 12: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Our Big 12 Mount Rushmore

February, 19, 2014
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LeBron James controversially put, of all things, Mount Rushmore in the news last week by suggesting he would be etched in stone one day among the four best in NBA history.

The James story set off a firestorm of other sports-related Rushmores. NFL Rushmores. IndyCar Rushmores. One site even put together its Mount Rushmore of Pro Bass Fishermen.

Not to be outdone, Brandon and I have put together a Mount Rushmore of Big 12 football players.

For those who slept through social studies, the actual Mount Rushmore includes the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The four were chosen not only because they were famous presidents. They were chosen because they were transformational figures in American history.

Washington won the Revolutionary War. Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln freed the slaves. Roosevelt changed American diplomacy.

In keeping with the spirit of the real Mount Rushmore, our Big 12 Rushmore wasn’t just about picking the four best players. It was about picking transformational figures whose impact was far-reaching. And it's just from the Big 12 era (1996-present).

Without further ado, the Big 12 football Mount Rushmore:

Texas QB Vince Young

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesVince Young led Texas to its first national championship in 35 years.
Before 2005, Texas was a great program. But it was not an elite one. It had been 35 years since the Longhorns had won a national championship. By contrast, Oklahoma had captured four national titles during that span. Even though coach Mack Brown had turned the Texas program around, the Sooners were still beating in the Longhorns’ heads on the field.

That all changed in 2005, thanks to one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history. Young put the Longhorns on his back, and took them all the way to Pasadena, Calif. The Longhorns destroyed everyone, including the Sooners, with Ohio State being the only regular-season opponent to play Texas within 10 points.

Young was even more spectacular in the national title game against USC. The mighty Trojans had no answer for Young, who threw for 267 yards and rushed for 200. And in the closing seconds on fourth down, he dashed past the pylon for the game-winning touchdown.

Young didn’t win the Heisman Trophy (he should have), but he became the first FBS quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season. He also finally lifted Texas over the hump, taking the Longhorns from great to elite.

Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson

Just this month, Oklahoma signed one of the best running backs in the country in California native Joe Mixon. Who is Mixon’s idol? Peterson. Who knows how many recruits the Sooners were able to sign the last decade because of Peterson. The number is substantial.

Peterson arrived in 2004 as the Sooners’ most ballyhooed recruit since Marcus Dupree. Texas wanted Peterson badly. And Peterson actually watched the 2003 Red River Rivalry from the Texas sidelines. But even though Peterson dreamed of playing for the Longhorns growing up, he wanted to win more. Peterson’s signing with Oklahoma added insult to injury to its cross-river rival.

After getting to campus, Peterson put together one of the best freshman seasons ever. He rushed for 1,925 yards, leading the Sooners to the national title game. He also finished second in the Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma against voting for freshmen.

The next two years of Peterson’s career were marred by injuries (even though he still finished with 4,041 career rushing yards). When healthy, he was the single-most dominant force in Big 12 history.

Baylor QB Robert Griffin III

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy and put Baylor back on the map.
Along with his coach Art Briles, Griffin changed the way people thought about Baylor football. He also changed the way Baylor football thought about itself. Before Griffin followed Briles to Waco in 2008, Baylor football was the laughingstock of the Big 12.

The Bears had not enjoyed a single winning season since before the inception of the league, and had lost 85 of 96 Big 12 games. The facilities were a mess and attendance was so poor, the school rolled a tarp over Floyd Casey Stadium's south end zone bleachers.

But by the time Griffin left, the program had been transformed. He brought the school its first Heisman Trophy and just its second 10-win season.

Griffin’s effect can still be felt in the Big 12. His magical season spurred Baylor to secure the funding for an on-campus, $260-million stadium that will open this fall. The Bears have also been a force ever since, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. In the last three months, Baylor captured its first Big 12 title, then nailed down a top-25 recruiting class. Until Griffin came along, that would have been unthinkable in Waco. It’s now the standard.

Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh

There have been some great defensive players to come through the Big 12. None come close to matching Suh, who was one of the most menacing defensive tackles to ever play college football.

In 2009, Suh captured the Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik national awards as the nation’s most outstanding lineman and defensive player. He also became the first defensive Heisman finalist since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997.

Spearheaded by Suh, Nebraska also fielded perhaps the greatest defense in Big 12 history. Despite playing in an era of high-flying offenses, the Huskers gave up just 10.4 points per game, the fewest any defense has allowed in Big 12 history.

Facing off against the Big 12’s best offense in the Big 12 championship, Suh and the Huskers imposed their will, and came a controversial call away from toppling the Longhorns. Texas went on to the national championship game, and Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy still finished one spot higher in the Heisman voting than Suh. But in that game, like every other one he played in that season, Suh was the best player on the field.
With the BCS era ending, we released the Big 12 all-BCS-era team this morning. ESPN.com also put together a national all-BCS-era team, and four Big 12 alums made that illustrious squad:
  • RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Nicknamed "A.D." because he could run "All Day," Peterson set an FBS freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards while finishing second to Matt Leinart in the '04 Heisman voting. Injuries plagued his next two seasons, but he still was a force and rushed for more than 1,000 yards to finish with 4,041 career rushing yards and 41 touchdowns before turning pro early.
  • WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon joined Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree as the only receiver to win the Biletnikoff twice. In those two seasons, Blackmon put up 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns. Blackmon gets the slight nod over Crabtree, because Oklahoma State won its first Big 12 title with Blackmon at wideout, while the Red Raiders came up just short with Crabtree.
  • DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive tackle during the BCS era than Suh. After registering 12 tackles and 24 tackles for loss, he placed fourth in the Heisman voting in '09, and won a host of national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik. Suh too went on to become the second overall pick in the draft.
  • S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-01) -- Williams was a major part of Oklahoma's revival at the turn of the millennium. He was one of the Sooners' best players on the 2000 national championship team, before winning the Thorpe and Nagurski awards in '01. That year, he also was the Big 12 defensive player of the year and a unanimous All-American while placing seventh in the Heisman voting.

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
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After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.

The Early Offer: Juco hits, misses 

September, 17, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: We take a look back at how the nation’s top three junior college players from the Class of 2013 have transitioned into their roles at Ole Miss, Nebraska and Kansas.


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Big 12 recruiting mailbag

August, 9, 2013
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Time to open up the mailbag and answer some questions about recruiting in the Big 12.

From Judd Blevins on Twitter: Possibility of Oklahoma getting 2 more RBs in Joe Mixon and Nathan Starks are…?

William Wilkerson: Surprisingly decent. Not to say OU can’t pull two running backs of this caliber. It most certainly can. It’s just rare for two players as good as they are to end up in the same recruiting class, especially with ESPN 300 RB Samaje Perine (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) already on board with Bob Stoops’ program.

It’s long been thought that Mixon would stay on the west coast and play for either USC or UCLA, but that sentiment seems to have shifted and OU is a big reason why. He will officially visit the Sooners on Oct. 4.

As for Starks, it is no secret that he has long admired OU for its ability to recruit out-of-state backs but also make them into NFL talent. He currently has the Sooners in his top three along with Notre Dame and USC.

From James Robinson on Twitter: Are there any high school TEs Texas will pursue in the 2014 or 2015 classes?

WW: There are. Right now, Texas has offered ESPN 300 TE Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, CA/La Mirada) and is trying to get him on campus for a visit. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound TE is the top at his position in the country. So interest is high from everyone but he has expressed the desire to get to Austin at some point.

As for 2015, the Longhorns have offered ESPN Junior 300 TE Jordan Davis (Houston/Clear Lake). But it doesn’t look like that will lead to anything. Davis originally committed to Florida State but has since switched his verbal pledge to Texas A&M.

Texas has gone to the junior college ranks for the second year in a row to pick up a tight end. John Thomas (Trinity Valley CC), who was originally committed to LSU out of high school, gave his verbal pledge in June.

From Gold n Blue Nation on Twitter: Dravon Henry seems to be down to Penn St. and WVU with Pitt running third. What is your prediction?

WW: This could go any way at this point. I think he’ll eventually stay close to home and stick with Penn State. But that could change, especially given that the Nittany Lions already have commitments from two safeties and two cornerbacks in 2014. That’s definitely an angle that I would be selling to Henry if I were WVU’s staff, who only has one defensive back commitment in junior college cornerback Jaylon Myers. Pitt and Aliquippa have a long and prosperous history together so you can’t count out the Panthers. The key here could be where teammate Jaleel Fields lands. Pitt and WVU seem to be the front-runners for him.

From Jason Mitchum on Twitter: Do you see Peyton Newell staying in-state?

WW: I think he’ll end up with Bo Pelini. Mitchum visited the Cornhuskers on June 15 for Big Red Weekend, which really seemed to cement things in the minds of many. For what it’s worth, Kansas and Kansas State are amongst his finalists, which he will choose from at his school on Aug. 30.

From Jacob Ledo on Twitter: Update on Kevin Shorter?

WW: Things are getting really interesting here. It looked like Arkansas and Texas A&M were going to go head-to-head for his commitment, but Texas is squarely in the mix now. He’s visited the Longhorns twice within the last two weeks so there is obvious interest there. The fact that he has pushed his college decision back because he needs more time doesn’t bode well for the two original contenders. The Longhorns need another running back and are selling him on the idea of being that vertical threat out of the backfield. Larry Porter has done an incredible job with getting Texas in the mix.
The folks at Pollspeak are your go-to source for breaking down the college football polls, and they released their comprehensive list of which teams have been overrated and underrated most by preseason polls over the past five seasons.

Their metric is simple: The preseason ranking and final AP ranking are compared, and the final total is added up over five years, whether it be positive or negative.

Oklahoma checks in as the No. 1 most overrated team in college football in the past five years, with a total of minus-49 in the polls from 2008-12. There wasn't really any competition for the Sooners, who were 13 points ahead of the No. 2 team, USC, and 22 points ahead of No. 3, Georgia.

Only in 2010 did Oklahoma finish higher (No. 6) than it began (No. 7), and had two seasons, 2011 and 2009 where it finished at least 15 spots lower than it began.

West Virginia was the nation's sixth most overrated team, finishing with a minus-23 mark. That's mostly thanks to 2012 and 2008, when it began the season at No. 11 and finished outside of the polls.

Texas was No. 9 nationally, with a mark of minus-18, mostly because it began the 2010 season at No. 5 and finished outside the polls for a mark of minus-21 alone. The Longhorns were picked 15th last season and finished 19th, and began and ended outside of the polls in 2011.

Believe it or not, Kansas finished at No. 11 on the most overrated list, thanks to a fall from 14th to out of the polls in the 2008 season.

That shows something of a flaw in the pure "overrated" label, but I like the metric.

The most underrated teams?

Put another feather in your cap, K-State fans, but not before tipping that cap to TCU. The Wildcats are the nation's seventh-most underrated team with a mark of plus-21 in the polls over the past five years, but the Frogs took home the Big 12 title in that category. They were plus-28 and finished tied for second, well behind Stanford, at plus-36.

Here's how the whole Big 12 sorted out, including former and new Big 12 members.
  • TCU: +28
  • Kansas State: +21
  • Baylor: +13
  • Texas A&M: +10
  • Texas Tech: +5
  • Oklahoma State: +5
  • Missouri: -10
  • Kansas: -13
  • Texas: -18
  • West Virginia: -23
  • Nebraska: -24
  • Oklahoma: -49

Good stuff. Note: Iowa State hasn't began or ended a season in the AP poll the past five years, so they weren't factored into Pollspeak's results. The same is true of former Big 12 member Colorado.
Did you hear that on Monday? The sweet sound of silence? Not a single goodbye or hello for a conference that's gotten used to those over the past three years.

The ACC held a special celebration in New York City to welcome Pitt and Syracuse, while the old Big East officially died and gave birth to The American, an aptly named league stretching from Connecticut to SMU in Dallas, though San Diego State and Boise State bailed before the doors were open.

Around the Big 12, though? July 1 was exactly what it's supposed to be: The beginning of a holiday-shortened week with no real news to fill the no-man's land of early July in college sports. That's a welcome development for the Big 12, which hasn't enjoyed that kind of quiet in July since all the way back in 2009.

In 2010, Nebraska had already announced plans to leave for the Big Ten and Colorado for the Pac-12, leading to an awkward Big 12 Media Days in late July and an even more awkward farewell season. July 1, 2011 was the day the Huskers and Buffaloes were officially gone. Later that month, the Big 12 members played nice and put on an, uh, interesting show at Media Days while working on a grant of rights deal.

Before conference play even heated up, Missouri and Texas A&M were gone, leaving the Big 12 to hand out invites to TCU and West Virginia. The moves became official on July 1, 2012.

Which leaves us to this week. The Big 12 sees itself in a position of strength after signing a 13-year grant of rights deal, and the ACC signing a similar deal took attractive options like Florida State, Clemson or Louisville mostly off the Big 12's radar.

At Big 12 meetings in Dallas last month, every league administrator I talked to couldn't help but smile at how little (which is to say, almost nil) conversation centered around expansion. That was a new development for the Big 12, which has been largely centered on the issue for the past three years.

The Big 12 can't replace the tradition, proximity and quality that programs like Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado left behind, but handed out $22 million to members this year and the league's meeting table is as cordial as it's ever been.

There's no denying the Big 12 suffered major losses in realignment and now sits with a name that doesn't match its membership. Still, for a conference a few steps away from death on two occasions, stability, big money and success on the field (90 percent of the league qualifying for a bowl in 2012 was the highest in CFB history) have changed the perception of a conference most viewed as doing little more than stalling on its deathbed.

TCU and West Virginia relished lifesavers out of a dying Big East and for TCU, a reunion with old Southwest Conference rivals. It was a rough first year for both programs, but the Big 12 is unlikely to add any members any time soon as college football exits the BCS era and enters the playoff era.

Travel issues have provided hiccups for the Mountaineers, and a leaky defense showed the transition would look a lot different than it did in WVU's dreams. A drug scandal at TCU wasn't a good look for the newcomers, and quarterback Casey Pachall's off-field troubles assured the Frogs a disappointing debut.

It wasn't perfect, but it worked. Those problems were microscopic compared to the major fractures that led to four members' departures. Those departures were major blows for the Big 12, but it survived, and this July, enjoyed the tranquility of a league with good football, big money and the knowledge of who'll be in its league for the foreseeable future.

That's a plot pretty close to the Big 12's best-case scenario for a league that lost four founding members in two years.
We're in the middle of counting down the top 10 players in the history of the Big 12. I'm sure you'll all agree with my selections.

See more on my criteria here.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 3: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska (2005-09)

Why he's on the list: Suh's career had modest beginnings, and coach Bo Pelini famously almost told the Oregon native to take a hike when he took over the Huskers job before the 2008 season. Instead, Suh bought in and became the Big 12's most decorated and best defender ever in two years as a starter. We're not taking his NFL career into account, but colleague Mel Kiper called Suh the most dominating defensive tackle in college football he'd seen in 32 years. Suh's greatest achievement was becoming a Heisman finalist as a defensive tackle in 2009, and I've always believed he should have won the award ahead of Alabama's Mark Ingram, who was arguably the second-best running back on that Alabama team that won the national title. Suh was simply the most dominant player in college football that season, impacting every game he played and just about every snap.

Do you know how hard it is to lead a team in tackles as a defensive tackle? Suh did it twice. He had 43 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks in two seasons as a starter. In 2009, he collected an absurd amount of hardware: He was the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year and he won the Lombardi Award, the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award. He was also a unanimous All-American and a finalist for the Camp Award as college football's best player. Nebraska's defense in 2009 was one of the best in Big 12 history, and the team fell just short of the Big 12 title. That's not Suh's fault. His performance against a big-time Texas offense in the title game was one of the best I've ever seen. Against the Longhorns, led by senior quarterback Colt McCoy (No. 5 on our list of top Big 12 players), he made 12 tackles and 4.5 sacks, racking up a school record seven tackles for loss. He was everywhere, and it seemed like he was in McCoy's face on every snap.

All season long, Suh was unblockable. Only two players are blocking him from being the greatest Big 12 player of all-time.

The rest of the list:
Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. named his All-NFL Rookie team this weekInsider, and if you've followed this blog very long, you'll recognize a few of the names on the team.

You'll need Insider to see it all, but it was a solid year for the Big 12 rookies at the next level. Headliner Robert Griffin III was edged out by Andrew Luck for the QB spot, but the Big 12 grabbed two of the three wide receiver spots.

Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon had one of them, and if you want to count him for Baylor, Josh Gordon grabbed another after a great rookie season with the Cleveland Browns, featuring 50 grabs for 805 yards. Blackmon tied for the rookie lead with 64 catches and led the class with 865 receiving yards, despite playing for the passing-deficient Jacksonville Jaguars. Impressive stuff.

Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele started all 16 games this year for the Ravens and earned a spot on the All-Rookie offensive line at right guard, the last spot for the Big 12.

It's no surprise that the league's only honorees were on offense, and two came at receiver, which has been the league's strongest position other than quarterback for the past few years. Nebraska's Lavonte David spent some time in the Big 12, and the Husker alum turned Buccaneer also cracked the team after making a big impact as a juco transfer back in 2011.
This has been in the works for a while, but it's finally official: Nebraska and Oklahoma will play a home-and-home series in the distant future.

The longtime Big Eight/Big 12 rivals will meet Sept. 18, 2021 in Norman, Okla., and Sept. 17, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. The Huskers and Sooners last played in the 2010 Big 12 championship game, which marked Nebraska's final contest in the conference before its move to the Big Ten.

The 2021 game will recognize the 50th anniversary of the "Game of the Century" between Nebraska and Oklahoma in 1971, when the top-ranked Huskers beat the second-ranked Sooners 35-31 en route to a national title.
"Our rivalry with Oklahoma has been one of the great traditional matchups in the history of college football," Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said in a prepared statement. "The games between the two schools were generally to decide a conference championship, and many times helped determine the national champion. Those matchups were always played with great intensity on the field, but with a great deal of respect from both sides and among the fan bases. I know our fans look forward to non-conference games against high-profile opponents like Oklahoma. I'm pleased we were able to finalize this series."

It's great to see the series finalized, and I'm sure Nebraska fans will be thrilled. How good is this rivalry? Both teams were ranked in the top 11 of the AP poll in 17 of the 19 games played between 1971-1988. Insane.

The concern is how continued conference realignment impacts future non-conference scheduling.

If leagues like the Big Ten go back to schedules with nine conference games, teams will be less inclined/able to schedule marquee non-league series like this one.

While Nebraska and Oklahoma likely will make the series a priority, there's no telling what the scheduling landscape will look like nearly a decade from now.

Nebraska has no other non-league games scheduled for 2021 and 2022, but expects to announce more schedule updates in the coming weeks.

Chat today at 3 p.m. ET

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
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The season is almost here, and today should be one of the most fun chats of the year. Be sure to make your presence known.

We'll get started at 3 p.m. ET sharp.

Here's the link.

Drop your questions in early, keep them coming once we start and I'll see you there.

One more time, for good measure: Here's where you can find our chat.
Texas will start the season at No. 15 in both major polls, but Mack Brown's not shying away from expectations this season. He says his team could finish in the top five.

"I think if you didn't think that, Lord, you shouldn't be at Texas," Brown told reporters. "I think two years ago was not the norm for us. Last year we had a lot of growing to do to try to get back in the mix. We had our chances, didn't work out like we wanted it to, and this year I think we've got a chance to be in the mix."

Brown's not far off. The defense should be dominant and will keep the Longhorns in games at times. The big question: Will the offense have a quarterback capable of making big throws when he need to, and will the running game be as good on the field as it should be on paper.

"If we play really good we've got a chance to win every week. If we play average we've got a chance to lose," Brown said. "So the coaches and the players have to do a tremendous job of being prepared to play each week and play at a high level."

That quote reminds me a little bit of Nebraska's Bo Pelini. After routing Washington in the Holiday Bowl, he took to the podium and shouted to delirious Husker fans that Nebraska was back, and here to stay.

Asked to expound on the comments later, he explained that by "back" he meant the Huskers would have a great chance to win every single game they played, and it was up to him to make it happen. He was right, though the Big Ten transition last year made it a bumpier ride than maybe he expected at the time.

Still, being in every game and winning every game is a far different task. Pelini has still lost four games in every season at Nebraska. That's not acceptable at Texas.

Yes, a top five finish is possible this year for Texas. So is a finish outside the top 25, thanks to a crazy-deep Big 12. It's up to Brown to navigate his team to the top of this league. The ability is there, but Texas won't be favored in every game. It'll be within reach, but only the fall will tell if the Longhorns reach out and grab those wins.

The Big 12 Blog chat returns today

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
2:30
PM ET
Have you missed our weekly chats? Today is your lucky day, my friends. The season is nearing, and the Big 12 blog weekly chat is back.

We'll start it back up at 3 p.m. ET today.

Here's the link.

As always, you can leave your questions there before we start, and I'll get to them once I arrive at 3 p.m. ET on the dot. Keep them coming once we start, and I'll see you there.

Can't wait.

Represent your teams on 'Colors Day'

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
1:45
PM ET
Want to prove that your fan base is the biggest?

Do it online by pledging your colors at this promotion ahead of "College Colors Day" on Aug. 31. Until then, you can place a vote for your school and register to win a shopping spree for products from your college.

Pretty cool promotion. Check it out.

This is an online poll, so is it going to just come down to the usual suspects, Big 12 expats Nebraska and Texas A&M, the resident kings of online polls?

We'll see soon enough. You can check out the rankings of all participating schools, too.

Big 12's APR scores strong

June, 21, 2012
6/21/12
10:30
AM ET
The NCAA released the Academic Progress Rate numbers for the 2010-11 school year this week, and the Big 12 did well, even though one school is flirting with some trouble in the future.

APR is a complex formula that's difficult to explain, but here's the explanation from the NCAA's website.
A Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team awards the full complement of 85 grants-in-aid. If 80 student-athletes remain in school and academically eligible, three remain in school but are academically ineligible and two drop out academically ineligible, the team earns 163 of 170 possible points for that term. Divide 163 by 170 and multiply by 1,000 to determine that the team’s Academic Progress Rate for that term is 959.

Yes, that's as unnecessarily complex as it sounds. Oh well. Anyway, it's a rolling four-year figure that's released each year, and teams that score below 925 and have a player who failed academically and left school can lose scholarships. Teams whose APR score drops below 900 face additional sanctions.

Here's how the Big 12's football teams did for the 2010-11 school year, courtesy of the NCAA website (includes Big 12 expats, because they were in the league at the time).

1. Missouri: 972

2. Kansas: 971

3. Oklahoma: 970

4. Nebraska: 966

5. Baylor: 956

T-6. Texas A&M: 946

T-6. Texas Tech: 946

8. Kansas State: 943

T-9. Colorado: 938

T-9. Iowa State: 938

11. Texas: 937

12. Oklahoma State: 928

Careful, Cowboys. Either way, everybody's safe this year.

If you're curious, West Virginia checked in with a score of 953, which would have ranked sixth in the Big 12. TCU, though, had a score of 973, which topped every Big 12 school. Very nice, Frogs.

You can see more data here.

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